Time Inc. Highlights Age of Printing Ads on Magazine Covers, Raises Print Industry's Brows

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By Daniel Joseph Cruz | May 27, 2014 4:45 PM EST

Time Inc. has decided to break the long tradition of keeping advertisements from magazine covers. The nation's largest magazine publishing company started putting Verizon Wireless ads on the cover of Time magazine, with Sports Illustrated following next.

Time followed the print industry's guidelines of excluding ads on magazine covers for 91 years.  

"The industry's major players have until now almost entirely resisted pressure to sell cover ads, despite a strong need for new revenue in recent years," Ad Age reported.

Editors strongly believed in the guidelines that placing ads on covers damages the editor's and publisher's brand statement. It goes in line with the American Society of Magazine Editor's (ASME) strict guidelines of not putting ads on magazine covers.

The area where the ads are placed is very small. Subscribers will notice the small Verizon logo in the bottom left of the cover page. The company is also planning on putting ads on the table of contents section in its magazines. As per the editorial's guidelines, the contents' page should also be ad-free.

Time Inc.'s Chief Content Officer Norman Pearlstine said the recent ad placement on its magazines was very minimal.

"We want to be entrepreneurial," Pearlstine added.

"We want to be creative. We want to do things that make sense for all of our stakeholders, including readers, viewers in digital space, advertisers and others."

The new ad placement move comes two weeks in Time's preparation to transition from Time Warner Inc. to a public company. Time is the first publishing company to place ads on the covers of magazines. It is the company's move to compensate for the declining numbers of print magazine sales and lost revenues.

Pearlstine noted Breaking ASME's guidelines can lead others to follow its example.

He said the cover ads defy ASME's guidelines. But Pearlstine believed what Time Inc. did was still consistent with one of the editorial society's four basic rules. The particular rule listed, "Editorial integrity must not be compromised by advertiser influence."

To contact the editor, e-mail:

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